Saturday, November 29, 2008

two pictures

Giovanni Paolo Pannini, "Picture gallery with views of ancient Rome" (1758).

I love paintings like this. Firstly because I love paintings of architecture. I like buildings and cities and public spaces, and I like how the lines of buildings compliment or contrast with the lines of perspective and the frame of the painting. Secondly because I love paintings within paintings. I love this impossible imaginary gallery with its majestic baroque vaults and its jumble of artworks representing the classical architecture which was the original model for that baroque. The galley has an unlikely opening at the back that reveals some king of monumental gate. To the left of the gate we see a painting of the arch of Constantine (another gate) and to the right the pantheon, its columns almost parallel to those of the gate. Which is more real? The sky outside matches the sky of the paintings. The style of the paintings is the same as that of the framing painting itself, and we almost get the sense that this hall is filled with mirrors or windows set at odd angles. To the right we have Trajan's column with its barely distinguishable frieze representing his imperial triumphs -- art within art within art. Of course, we would be seeing this in the Louvre, so we find ourselves in a gallery surrounded by paintings as we look at this one. Maybe we are in a painting as well?

I love the bravado of it. Why paint one just one painting when you can paint a gallery? A Borgesian labyrinth of paintings and play between styles and lines in which the dizzy spectator loses track of where he or she is, whether in Rome or in the imaginary gallery or in the real one.

When I was a child, one of the bathrooms in my house had a large mirror that had two wing-mirrors that could be folded out. I used to fold them into a triangle, leaving only enough space to stick my head in so that I could see an infinite forest of Liams, fading in distant green images of the weakening light spectrum. I know what Pannini was after -- holding infinity in the palm of his hand.

"Portrait of a Youth" (Lucrezia Borgia?) by
Dosso Dossi.

The second picture, it has been asserted recently, is the only known painting of Lucrezia Borgia, the great femme fatale of the Renaissance. Only one question: hot or not?


crystal said...

It's strange to see the portraits of women of the past who had so much power over others, in part because of their beauty. Cleopatra's face on coins is not pretty at all from modern standards but she had Julius and Anthony in knots. But I read Lucrezia was a blond in Italy, so maybe that explains it :)

Jeff said...
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Jeff said...

Nice commentary on the artwork. I've painted a few theatrical sets in the past, and felt that way a bit.

Lucrezia? She doesn't do much for me, but maybe she had other things going for her.

I don't think Wallace Simpson would have inspired me to give up the throne, but behind closed doors, who knows?

lullaby said...

hot, no question about it.

cowboyangel said...

The Pannini painting is really cool, especially when I studied a larger image of it.

So was the Piero della Francesca, which totally reminded me of De Chiricho. Must have been one of his influences, no?

Lucrezia looks like a sullen skate punk in that painting. Little too bony and masculine for me. Kind of a Patti Smith thing going. Though she looks like she could've been cool to hang out with. As a friend, who happens to be a girl. :-)

Liam said...


I once heard that Cleopatra had certain... ahem... talents...

As Jeff says, behind closed doors.

I like William's skate-punk comparison. Though I have to say for me...


cowboyangel said...

So, who plays her in the movie version?

Liam said...

I heard the actress from "Twilight" is going to play Joan Jett in a movie. She should play Joan Jett playing Lucrezia Borgia.

cowboyangel said...

They're making a Joan Jett movie!?!?! But they haven't even made a Jimmy Page movie yet. What the hell kind of rock and roll heritage is that?

I don't really know Kristen Stewart, though I just looked her up online. She looks bony enough to play Lucrezia, but could she pull off the intense will of Miss Borgia?

I was thinking Scarlett Johansson, though I don't know why. Not an actress I like, per se.

Has there ever been a movie about the Borgias?

cowboyangel said...

Ah, several flicks, including:

Bride of Vengeance (1949) [4.8 rating] - With Paulette Goddard as Lucrezia. Ooh. She was hot. Married to Charlie Chaplin, Erich Maria Remarque, and Burgess Meredith - and had an affair with Gershwin.

Lucrèce Borgia (1953) - French-Italian job, with Pedro Armendáriz as César Borgia.
Lucrezia Borgia (1922) [no rating] - With Conrad Veidt as César Borgia Borgia.

And some weird thing called We Do It Because - (1942), with Ava Gardner as Lucrezia.

cowboyangel said...

Hey, have you ever seen El Cid (1961), with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren - and Geneviève Page as Urraca?

Liam said...

I started to watch El Cid, but Charleton Heston as an eleventh-century Castilian nobleman is a bit hard to take. I would like to try again, though. Apparently the great Spanish medievalist Ramon Mendendez Pidal was a historical consultant on the set. Besides, I could just turn the sound off while Heston was speaking and just look at Sophia Loren.

I think that Urraca is Alfonso's sister, not his daughter (Queen Urraca).

crystal said...

Talents? What do you mean? :)

Wikipedia says ...

According to Plutarch, what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive was her wit, charm and "sweetness in the tones of her voice"

Jeff said...

Put it this way... I think he means that if Hillary had just been willing and able to do what Monica was was willing and able to do, we ALL would have been spared a whole lot of trouble.

El Cid was slow and ponderous and way too long, but I love the scene at the end when they trotted him out on his horse before the big battle with the Moors on the beach.

Pssst... Hey, does he look all right to you>?

cowboyangel said...

See, we should write a screenplay about Queen Urraca. It's just aching to be done - and YOU are the man to do it. Get that damn dissertation finished so we can finally hit the big time!

Charleton Heston as an eleventh-century Castilian nobleman is a bit hard to take.

It's hard to imagine anything worse than Heston as a Mexican narcotics official in Touch of Evil. I don't care if it is supposed to be a classic film noir, I've never been able to get beyond Chuck's mind-boggling hair, make-up and acting.

Some highlights from IMDB, where it's actually ranked #95 All Time:

Charlton Heston is supposed to be a Mexican. They give him a Cisco Kid mustache but his accent is from Iowa.

Charlton Heston, as a Mexican, turns in one of the cinema's all-time worst-ever performances

Heston plays a Mexican (no, I'm not kidding) DEA guy with no discernible ethnicity beyond some facepaint and a greased mustache.

Charlton Heston playing a confused Mexican who lapses in and out of bad English and ignorance of all things American one minute and being a savvy lawyer the next

Charlton Heston's shoe polish makeup is downright horrible--it beats Alec Guinness' makeup in 'Lawrence of Arabia.'

the casting of Charlton Heston as a Mexican was totally ludicrous (and almost at the level of slapstick).

Heston looks 100% silly as a Mexican since they use some sort of makeup to make him darker(one suspects in color he'd be orange) and his makeup looks so bad becuase none of the other "Mexicans" gets the same makeup treatment so his contrast is all the more striking.

Blackening Heston's hair and giving him a pencil mustache and a few lines in Spanish did not transform him into a believable Mexican official.

First, whose stupid idea was it to paint Charlton Heston's hair and have him play a Mexican?! While it's not as silly as John Wayne playing Genghis Khan, it is approaching that--especially since Heston has not a trace of an accent.

Heston as a Mexican is just laughable...most people know that he is melodrama at its WORST. Talk about over-acting!

First of all, Heston as a Mexican. You can paint him brown all you want - and then send him to 25 solariums - he does not look like one. Worse of all, he doesn't even talk like one.

Charlten Heston managed to score probably the worst acting job I've seen.

Seemingly every race but an actual Mexican will do here in portraying the Mexican roles, no matter how absurd the casting; uber-Caucasian Charlton Heston, or German Marlene Dietrich.

And then there's Heston . . . the fact that he's smothered in brown make-up and given a pencil-thin mustache in order to play a Mexican doesn't add him any points in my book.

I would not subject any of my closest friends and loved ones to sit through any of this unless they want to see Charlton Heston doing a very poor job of convincing the audience that he is Mexican with his fake brown make up tan and bad anglocized Mexican accent. As soon as Heston opens his mouth, the whole thing goes downhill fast!

Charlton Heston is pretty much a joke of a man in the first place, but it was hilarious seeing this guy trying to portray a Mexican.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, Jeff, Jeff... This is a family blog. I can't believe you're talking about our Secretary of State like that. ;-)

Jeff said...

What do you mean? It'd probably be a very useful skill for a Secretary of State to have too.

Interesting, about that Charlton Heston role. That'd be a good topic for a post. Which actors have been the most horribly miscast?

Liam said...

Jeff -- it worked for Kissinger.

Garpu said...

Wow. My libido just took a plunge. Last thing I want to think about is Kissinger anywhere in the same sentence as the word "sex."

crystal said...
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crystal said...

delete, delete :)

cowboyangel said...

Your blog's getting dusty. There were cobwebs when I came to visit today.

Liam said...

Yeah, I know. I might have to post a link to something just so people know I'm alive.

It's been a tough month -- absolutely no free time.